Browse by year:
February - 2005 - issue > Entrepreneurship
Busy Bee in Broadcasting
Priya Pradeep
Tuesday, February 1, 2005
Twelve summers ago, Beehive Systems began its chequered journey without a murmur. The noise about it gathered along the way and reached a crescendo with the 2004 Indian general elections. Beehive’s technology products captured live election data and put it on air as soon as possible to reach the discerning television audience. This was not just hot air. “It’s a matter of pride for us that high profile news channels like Sahara, Zee News and Doordarshan posed faith in Beehive Systems and used our graphics creation and automation solution for a critical project like the elections,” says 37 year-old Tushar Kothari, CEO, Beehive Systems. The Rs.13.2 crore company offered software tools to update the complex poll data generated from the 540 constituencies for viewers. Coverage of Indian elections led to enquiries from TV Networks from countries like United States, Malaysia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

What began, as a graphics and animation studio is today a global software solutions and services company. They cater to the broadcast industry worldwide with innovative solutions in digital video technologies, automated data graphics, digital newsroom solutions, and custom software solutions for broadcasters. Beehive has extensive knowledge of the broadcast industry and has implemented numerous solutions for its clients that includes CNBC, Channel News Asia, STAR News, Sony, Sahara TV Network, TV Today, Zee News and many other national and international channels.
“Even four years ago we were not convinced of a global presence but as the product was built, we became convinced that we could do it,” says Kothari. He possesses that entrepreneurial –“we can do it” trait. Definitely achievers achieve twice – once in the mind and once in reality.

Among its innovative software products are digital video systems, digital content management, automated data graphics and custom software solutions. The system can transmit high quality videos at extremely low bandwidth compared to the traditional mode. Three of the top news channels in India – Star News, Zee News and Doordarshan have successfully used it for coverage of the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Beehive’s dynamic solution helped these news channels generate thousands of graphics round-the-clock as multiple video streams. It also ensured the integration of the graphics with volumes of election data housed in various data sources and those coming in live from the reporters on the field in the form of exit polls and final counting results. The biggest advantage for the news personnel using this solution is its ability to generate graphics at the press of a button without having to do any programming. This electronically transmits footage from a news bureau to the central production centre over ISDN and V-Sat.

Opportunity knocks
The opportunity to produce cutting-edge software for the television broadcast medium came in the guise of New Delhi Television (NDTV), which asked Beehive for a news gathering solution. It provided a foothold for Kothari and Ganesh Rajamani, co-founders of Beehive Systems in the media technology solutions arena and they never looked back since. The solution for NDTV was their first product in the television broadcast space. Kothari reveals,” The first breakthrough we got was from the customer’s end rather than us pitching for them.” When this break from NDTV surfaced Beehive actually purchased a product from Cisco and customized it for NDTV’s needs. Hence, the customer’s perspective was retained while delivering the solution. This incident prompted understanding of the television broadcasters’ requirements and motivated them to build their own in-house product catering to this need. Opportunity was realized with the very first customer. The domain expertise got by being in this vertical took care of finding solutions for the customer’s daily problems. Today, the company is looking beyond broadcasters. It has been approached by the Army and the BSF and the Indian Railways to develop a disaster management system. “Currently these organisations gather news from the TV channels and want their personal monitoring networks,” explains Kothari.

Market hive of Beehive
The market for digital video and broadcast graphics is very vast and the players are limited in India hence there is a goldmine of opportunity for Beehive. Kothari understands this very well, given the fact that the status quo of Beehive from five years ago to now is very different. The company has made large strides. In its early stages the company was a systems integrator and not a product company, tailoring products bought off the shelf based on customer requirements. Due to the obvious lack of players providing service in this arena Beehive capitalized on this lacunae. Hence steps were taken forward by the company to provide products to bridge this gap. Kothari adds that people in this vertical with high resources like Satellite Service Providers, V-SAT Operators and Distant Learning Providers have simply not made efforts to address the gnawing gap between supply and demand. People are doing business by importing software and opportunity seekers are defunct in India. This could be attributed to the long gestation period after starting a unit and the minimum requirement of a fifty-strong team even at the initial stage. Beehive’s products are available at one-fifth the price of international players.

Decisions and Lessons with growth
The entry barriers for building a company like Beehive would be not having a working capital to last two years and the inability to create fifty-strong team of software professionals. Financial power and willpower are equally important here! Along with expansion hiring was done. The team needed adequate training and for that to happen Rajamani learnt the software and then passed it down to others. The process was arduous, but then life was never meant to be easy. Consequently, the building of the company took two years. Rs.5.3 crore was invested with the help of Citibank for Beehive to proceed.

VCs did not come forward to fund Beehive because they were not sure of the returns that a small size investment of this nature would generate. Looking back, Kothari wishes that he had raised more capital although the amount received was sufficient. In hindsight the spending of the capital raised could have been different and entry into animation should have been considered because of the superior margins it produces.

The inflection point for a start up would be when a certain customer is ready to pay, in this case, a large amount of approximately a crore of rupees for the service provided. This is the right time to seek a sizeable number of other customers. Beehive is now in this state on the growth curve. If you have not reached this point you should not attempt expansion. Beehive so far has reached sixteen countries through ten distributors, and in the next two years its vision is to reach sixty countries with U.S. and Europe being the hotspots.

Lessons learnt from selling in U.S, Taiwan and Malaysia are to have clarity of commitment and the art of saying ‘No’. “A majority of television stations in the US are still not digital, unlike India,” Kothari notes. To tap the over 1,700 analogue television stations in the US, Beehive has tied up with an American company, Signasys.

Young entrepreneurs make the common mistake of believing that the five or six crore rupees raised is more than adequate to take on the world. But experience is needed to tone down this youthful adrenalin rush. Where and how to spend the money raised to get good returns should be concurrent with your vision of expansion. “Money is the most important factor in growth and great ideas, great products is the first requirement; but getting it to the market requires time and money. Before you raise the money you should identify certain mentors who will guide you on the path to take or you can be taken for a ride,” cautions Kothari.

Share on LinkedIn